Marilyn Thie

Today we gather to mourn the loss and remember and celebrate the life of Marilyn Thie. As we do so it is our desire to stir up the faith that is anchored to our hope in Christ.

Peter wrote,

All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad!  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Your reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9 (NLT)

It is with this hope that we come together today. We face the sadness of loss but also the joy of deliverance, reunion, wholeness and life.

With that in mind, let’s pray together,

Our Father, we gather this day to gain perspective. We hurt at the suddenness of loss while at the same time rejoicing at the nature of the life lived. Help us as we try to sort through the mixture of feeling and as we try to gain a sense beyond this world for that which is unseen. Stir up within us wonderful memories and a fervent hope. We ask this in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

The Thie family wants this to be a time of worship and celebration so I ask you to sing with me.

HYMN: How Great Thou Art

Mrs. Marilyn Anne (Rinker) Thie was born July 29, 1931 in Colorado Springs, CO, the daughter of Carl and Dorothy Harrison Rinker. She met Howard Thie at an Air Force dance around Thanksgiving time in 1951. They were married a mere eight weeks later on January 10, 1952 in Colorado Springs. Anyone who knew them would say they had a solid and strong marriage.

Marilyn had a cackle of a laugh that was distinct. She had a wonderfully quick wit and she and Howard were constantly giving each other a playful good time. In these later years when one was sick the other one took care of them. For a number of years they seemed to be tag-teaming in their illnesses. One would get better and they would take over as care-giver.

Marilyn was in Colorado College when she and Howard were married. She finished her education degree from Iowa Wesleyan and got her Masters Degree in Guidance Counseling from W.I.U. She taught early elementary classes in Sperry, IA. Blandinsville, IL and Good Hope, IL for many years. As I recall, she had real mixed emotions about retiring from teaching. She knew it was time but she was going to miss the kids.

Marilyn died on March 12, 2012. She is survived by her 2 daughters, Dr. Linda Thie of Punta Gorda, Florida and Angela (Jim) Painter of Goodfield, Illinois, 1 son Frederick Thie of LaHarpe, 3 grandchildren, Jameson Painter of Las Vegas, NV, Joe Painter of Westmont, IL and Lauren Painter of DeKalb, IL.

She was preceded in death by her husband on December 22, 2010, her brother, Carl Rinker, and her parents.


Marilyn was a warm-hearted and caring person. When I think about her life I think about this verse in the Bible,

Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. (Acts 9:36)

Marilyn was a Dorcas kind of woman. She was full of good works and acts of charity. She was unassuming yet touched many lives in ways that I suspect was more profound than she ever realized.

Marilyn loved her family. She and Howard managed their household well. They were never harsh in their discipline of the children. Marilyn wanted to feed the interests of her children. She even agreed to let Howard get a horse for the kids because Linda loved horses. It went against her better judgment but she gave in.

Marilyn loved chocolate and would go out of her way to get some.

She loved learning and wanted her kids to love learning too. It was Marilyn who urged Howard to finish his education. Marilyn even helped Linda with her Doctoral dissertation. If Linda needed some research materials that she could not secure she would call her mom and Marilyn would go to WIU find the materials, copy them, and send them to Linda.

Marilyn loved to read and believed strongly in developing a love for reading into her children and grandchildren. When she finished a book she would pass it on to Angie or Linda to read.

When Jameson was young she would bring tubs of books home from her classroom for him to read. He read books very quickly. One day she took him to Macomb and spent $180.00 on books. He had half of them read before they even got home! From that point on Marilyn decided she needed to buy bigger books.

With Joe, Marilyn reached out to him with the promise of playing Putt Putt golf. They would head over to Burlington and the kids and Grandma would play miniature golf with Howard’s Aunt Hulda (who was a very competitive “putt-putt player”). They would then enjoy Hulda’s homemade fudge (did I mention Marilyn liked chocolate?).

Marilyn connected with Lauren by taking her shopping. Marilyn loved to shop and wanted to share this love with her Grand-daughter. In fact one time she bought Lauren a book called the Big Green Purse which told about a girl who had her life in her purse. Marilyn had gone out and found an identical purse so Lauren could have it so they could go shopping after she read the book. Marilyn, Angie, and Lauren all went shopping for the day just last Saturday. Grandma was overjoyed to buy Lauren two dresses. Originally Marilyn wanted to use her walker. Then she realized she could shop a lot longer if she used the wheelchair.

Grandma and Lauren also shared a love for pug dogs. Marilyn had Puggie Sue and then Puggie Two (called Tutu for short).

Last Christmas Marilyn got an iPad. You have to love her spirit that was willing to learn how to use new technology and enjoy it. One of her favorite things to do on her iPad was to get on YouTube and look for videos of pugs and kids!

Howard and Marilyn loved to go to Florida to visit Linda. They loved hanging out on the beach and searching for sea shells. They really liked the sunshine. Linda reports that while they were down there they would always try to find the best seafood place in town to eat. Marilyn inevitably ordered a cheeseburger!

As a teacher, Marilyn touched the lives of hundreds of students over the years. She taught early elementary. At different times she taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. I’m told (by a former student) that she was the 3rd grade teacher everyone wanted to get. She had that wonderful ability to keep order and at the same time still be loving. She saw it as a challenge to find that thing that would engage each student. I suspect there are scores of stories of things Marilyn did for students and ways she impacted their lives, that no one knows.

Marilyn enjoyed crafts. She was proud of a special sewing machine that enabled her to write names on blankets which she gave to many babies over the years. She must have made scores of blankets (just based on all the people who mentioned that they have one). She would sew the name and birthdate of the child on the blanket. In some cases she even asked for the interests the child or family so she could select an appropriate blanket. At one church bazaar she sold the blankets and then sewed the names on the blankets. She liked to quilt (but it took her awhile because she wanted it perfect and would keep redoing work she had already done). She embroidered hand towels.  She even made lots of things with beads (necklaces and purses). She made blankets for all the Grandkids and I’m told that they all still use them! She never wanted anything in return. It was all out of love.

Marilyn had a great heart. She loved children and was always ready to lend a hand with childcare. There were several families in the church (that I know about) who benefited from her kindness. Marilyn and Howard both took a special interest in Tom and Chris Tait and their baby. They were always there to babysit when needed (especially on bell nights). I know she enjoyed watching Nathan Hart when he was a baby. She and Lucretia used to take turns watching Nathan whenever his parents were involved together (like in Sunday School, or choir practice). Lucretia suspected that there were times Marilyn claimed to be busy even though she wasn’t, just so Lucretia would have a chance to spend time with Nathan.

Marilyn volunteered with Hospice where she was able to combine her compassion and her counseling skills. She often would drive people to Doctors appointments. When Justin Sparrow was going through radiation treatments in Peoria, Marilyn offered to drive Justin and Brenda a number of times. According to Brenda, Marilyn either didn’t see some of the red lights, or thought they were merely “suggestions” that she was free to ignore. At times they wondered which was more dangerous . . . the treatments, or the drive to the treatments!

Marilyn had her challenges. She battled Depression all her life. Until she got on the right medication there were times she just was unable to do anything. She was fortunate to have a husband who understood the disease and was there to help her in the down times. For the last four years Marilyn has had to have dialysis three days a week. She managed really well with dialysis. When you would ask her how she was doing she would say, “Oh, pretty good.” She thought of the people at dialysis as a second family. She had gotten gifts for all the girls but didn’t have the chance to give them to the staff.

When Howard died many of us were concerned with how Marilyn would get along. She surprised us all by rising to the challenge and making the necessary adjustments.

Marilyn was an active member of the Union Church. She served as Sunday School Superintendent for many years, taught Sunday School, helped with Bible School, and served on the Board of Christian Education. She helped get the Sunday Lunch Bunch started where she became good friends with Tom and Elie Koopmans. Her counseling background made her a unique resource for hurting people.

Marilyn and Howard were special to my family because Maggie and the kids sat right in front of them in church every week. They were like our “surrogate parents” since our families were several hours away. We cherish their memories and are grateful for the way they impacted our lives.

She is certainly a woman who made an impact.


In 1 Corinthians 15 we read these words,

35 But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” 36 What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. 37 And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. 38 Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. 39 Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

42 It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies. (NLT)

Paul uses an illustration from farming to describe what we will be like when those who have put their trust in Christ die. He says the difference between our heavenly body and our earthly body will be similar to the difference between a seed of corn and the stalk of corn that results from that seed; or the difference between an acorn and an oak tree.

What a great picture! Think about it. Marilyn Thie is now with the Lord. She fell asleep in the car and woke up in Heaven! Her weakness is gone, the need for medication is past, the cloud of depression is lifted, loss has given way to reunion and faith has become sight!  I encourage you to get hold of this picture. There is no reason to be sad for Marilyn today. She has been promoted, transformed, made new. We must recognize that our grief is for our loss; not hers.

The Apostle Paul also was thinking about farming when he said,

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. [Galatians 6:7-8]

In the book 90 minutes in Heaven the author, Robert Mumford tells about his experience after a horrific car crash where even the paramedics concluded he was dead. During this time Mumford (a Pastor) says he entered Heaven. He was greeted by people from his past and people who had impacted his spiritual life. I don’t know if that is how things are really going to be in Heaven, but I like the picture.

It is a wonderful thing to think of Marilyn greeted by the Lord, by Howard, and by family members who have preceded her. But I wonder if there will also be parents, children and co-workers who will be there to greet her as one of those who impacted their lives and helped to lead them to Heaven. I wonder how many times in the future the Lord will summon Marilyn to greet those who die in the future because of the impact she had on their lives. I can only imagine the joy that will be hers to know that her life made such a difference.

It is an oft quoted poem but it is apropos here,

A builder built a temple,

     He wrought it with grace and skill;

Pillars and groins and arches

     All fashioned to work his will.

Men said, as they saw its beauty,

     “It shall never know decay.

Great is thy skill, O builder:

     Thy fame shall endure for aye.”

A teacher built a temple

     With loving and infinite care

Planning each arch with patience,

     Laying each stone with prayer.

None praised her unceasing efforts,

     None knew of her wondrous plan;

For the temple the teacher built

     Was unseen by the eyes of man.

Gone is the builder’s temple,

     Crumbled into the dust;

Low lies each stately pillar,

     Food for consuming rust.

But the temple the teacher built

     Will last while the ages roll,

For that beautiful unseen temple

     Is a child’s immortal soul.

Most of us live life with a certain measure of obscurity. The longer we live the more our friends and family members pass away and the more isolated we become. When you are sick for awhile it feels like everyone forgets you. It is then easy to believe that no one notices and no one cares. How wonderful it is to think that that is all changed in that wonderful moment when we move from this life to the life prepared for us!

I must clarify something here. I am confident that Marilyn Thie is in Heaven.  However . . . I do not believe she is in Heaven because she was a good lady (which, by the world’s definition, she was).  She is in Heaven today because she trusted a Great Savior.

Marilyn understood that even on her best days she could never earn Heaven. God’s standard is perfect obedience. None of us has even been close to meeting that standard. Perhaps Marilyn was better than most people. . . but not good enough to deserve Heaven.

Think about it this way: even if we only committed one sin a day (which would be a staggeringly good day!) and were able to keep that up the rest of our lives, that would be seven transgressions a week, roughly 30 a month, 360 a year, and if you lived to be 70 you would have rebelled against God over 25,000 times!  And let me remind you that we are talking about a person who was impossibly above average!

The Bible says there is “NONE that is righteous”. God’s standard is so far above our experience that it is impossible for us to make it on our own.

In the book of Titus we are told,

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. (NLT)

The Bible gives us incredible good news: God, understanding our situation sent Jesus to teach us and to die for us. He traded His life as a payment for our sin and rebellion. He took our place and the punishment that earned by our rebellious lives and now offers us a new life if we will trust Him.

Truly trusting Christ is not about having some religious moment or even about learning certain truths. Trusting Christ means that we stop lying to ourselves and admit that we deserve nothing from God except condemnation. Think about a person who is stopped for speeding (or in Marilyn’s case running a red light). You plead with the officer that you didn’t mean to break the law. Now let’s suppose that your car is filled with unpaid tickets. The back seat, the trunk, and even the front seat are stacked with tickets. Do you still think you can plead for mercy? We need to face the fact that we need a Savior.

Second, trusting Christ means that we believe Jesus is unique in being able and willing to give His life for us. It means we recognize that He is the Son of God who is uniquely qualified to give His perfect life in exchange for the sinful life of anyone who will trust and follow Him. Jesus as the Son of God has so much value to His life that He can pay for any who will trust Him.

Finally, trusting Christ involves living for Him. The person who says they believe in Christ but does not acknowledge Him in the way their live their lives, has not really trusted Christ.

I believe Marilyn trusted Christ in this way. I believe she put her hope and trust in Him. She didn’t do what she did to earn Heaven; she did what she did to honor and praise the God who showed her mercy and grace! I think this is why she was not afraid to die . . . she knew where she was going!

Our challenge today is to celebrate Marilyn’s life, character, and faith in Christ. We recognize that though we suffer the pain of loss, Marilyn has lost nothing. By the grace of Jesus Christ she lives even though she dies.

It is also our job to celebrate her life and to learn the lessons of her life. I can think of a few

  • Every person is unique, you relate to them best by taking the time to discover their interests rather than expecting them to embrace your interests. The best teacher is the one who teaches individuals, not classes.
  • It is not the difficulties of life that determine who we become; it is how we respond to those difficulties.
  • The best way to show love to someone, is to love their child.
  • Chocolate goes with any meal and is also the perfect snack.
  • Reading opens the door to knowledge. The person who makes time to read is making time to grow.
  • Life is more fun if you have a sense of humor.
  • Just because a restaurant is known for a certain type of food doesn’t mean that’s what you have to eat.
  • There are times in everyone’s life when we need hand. If you are the person who lends that hand . . . you will be remembered gratefully forever.
  • You are never too old to learn something new.
  • True faith in Jesus Christ is seen more in the way we live, than in the things we say.
  • Finally, when you have truly trusted Christ you don’t need to fear death . . . you can actually begin to look forward to that which is to come.

Let’s pray together.

Our Father we are here today to testify that we have been blessed by You through the life of Marilyn Thie. Thank you for her life and spirit. We pray that you welcome her warmly into the place that you have prepared for her since the creation of the world. We smile at the imagined reunion taking place.

Lord, please help this family. The loss is so fresh that in many respects it hasn’t even sunk in yet. Stand with them in the months and years ahead. Bring to their minds the many great memories that have made up their lives. Grant them joy even in the midst of sadness as they remember.

Please help us to go forward with a measure of Marilyn’s spirit, grace and generosity. Grant that our faith might show forth through our lives as Marilyn’s did through hers.  Amen.

Song: Because He Lives

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